It’s undeniable that building codes save lives, but something has changed in the past couple decades. Now, thanks to the Internet, the average homeowner has unlimited access to building techniques. We’re experimenting more than ever and often out of step with the rulebooks.
I keep hearing about pockets of the country where codes haven’t yet come to town. I decided to route our annual family road trip through this part of the world and since we were in search of frugal living, we too traveled light (a Prius, 2-person tent and cooler for our family of five).
Here’s a long-ish trailer for the feature-length documentary “A spaghetti western on lean urbanism” (to be premiered on youtube May 2015). It’s a look at developers, builders and ordinary homeowners who haven’t accepted the status quo and are trying to improve how we live by adapting the rules.
Featuring Paolo Soleri (Arcosanti), Brad “Darby” Kittel (Tiny Texas Houses), Patrick Kennedy (CITYSPACES microapartments, Panoramic Interests), John Wells (Field Lab), Luke Iseman (Boxouse), Tom Duke (Earthships Biotecture).
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A century ago, Terlingua, Texas was a bustling mining town (by 1922 it was supplying the nation with 40% of its quicksilver needs for gunpowder), but in the 1940s the mine closed and the place emptied out. For decades, it was a ghost town and then in the 1980’s it was bought by one owner with dreams of restoration.
Mimi Webb Miller has spent most of her adult life living in tiny towns in West Texas and just across the border in Mexico. She knew the town’s owner and 20 years ago, he told her she could build her home on one of the ruins. “There was just one room. It wasn’t even a room it was a doorway and a box sitting on some rocks. So the rocks were left, the adobe was all gone. So I started building in ‘96 and very quickly had a home.”
After she had a home, she decided to keep rebuilding and soon had turned five more ruins into a guesthouse and coffee shop. She says there were no rules for building when she got her start in town, but more recently, the county has stepped in with one request. “I think they’re starting to say no new outhouses. I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it’s worded… you know we have more people so you do have to have more rules.” The population of Terlingua at the 2010 census was 58.
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